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Police reprimanded over file search

The Bermuda Police Service have been ordered to look through their files for minutes of meetings held by the Bermuda Police Association after they failed to conduct an “adequate” search in the wake of a public access to information request.

The Pati requester, whose identity was not revealed, asked the BPS three years ago for the minutes in the belief that the association, which represents police officers, was part of the police service and a public authority under the Public Access to Information Act.

The police service denied the request on the grounds that the police association was not a public authority and the BPS did not have the authority to release records held by the association.

The requester, who wanted records about the incorporation of a combined allowance into police officers' salaries, asked information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez for an independent review.

Ms Gutierrez found that the association was not a public authority, despite being established by statute, because it did not carry out government functions, was not owned or controlled by the Government and did not receive funding from the public purse.

Her decision was issued on November 27.

Ms Gutierrez said the BPS were justified in not transferring the request to the Bermuda Police Association.

However, she said the police service failed to conduct a reasonable search of their own records to see if they held the minutes.

Ms Gutierrez said she was “not satisfied that the rigour and efficiency of the police service's search for the meeting minutes was adequate when it was processing the request”.

She added that the police did volunteer to forward the request to the association, with the applicant's permission.

The information commissioner said the BPS failed to comply with the Pati Act and ordered them to carry out a reasonable search for records and issue a new decision by January 8 to the Pati requester.

A police spokesman said the service “maintains its position that the Bermuda Police Association is not a public authority in accordance with the Public Access to Information Act and therefore its records are not subject to disclosure under the Act”.

He added: “It appears that the information commissioner supports this standpoint.

“However, there are occasions when a record held by the BPA could become a record of the BPS if, for example, a BPA document was sent to the Commissioner of Police.

“The information commissioner was right to have pointed this out and we are checking the records that we hold to ensure that records held by the BPA which relate to this request are not also held by the Bermuda Police Service.”

To view the decision of the information commissioner, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

Only partial police justification: information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez

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Published December 18, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 18, 2018 at 2:51 pm)

Police reprimanded over file search

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